Emailing Shamans, Critical Thinking, and Retrieving Souls

On Tuesday I emailed a shaman. That is a very bizarre sentence, when I say it aloud to myself I can’t help but chuckle, but the 21st Century is a very bizarre time and you can indeed contact them through that medium. I was interested in doing a soul retrieval, something I had first read about in Elena Avila’s bestseller Woman Who Glows in the Dark: A Curandera Reveals Traditional Aztec Secrets of Physical and Spiritual Health. The basic idea is that when you suffer a trauma or susto (fright) a part of your soul leaves your body leaving you disconnected or lost. This is very similar to psychotherapy’s concept of disassociation, but the difference is in therapy the focus is why and in soul retrieval it is where. Both interpretations seem valid, but from personal experience in psychotherapy, the constant rehashing of wounds and wrong doings can become rather self-indulgent. It seems that the shamanic practice is less concerned with why and focuses more on the practicality of bringing those pieces back together. It is difficult to say if analyzing the hell out of why we are dysfunctional facilitates the process. I don’t think in my case it hurt, but I also feel that most people who seek out therapy have a fairly good idea of why their lives are falling apart and maybe a soul retrieval would save a lot of time and grief.

Since beginning this journey things have just sort have seemed to fall into place in ways they haven’t before. I’m not saying life has been a cakewalk, just that there is a clarity that didn’t used to exist for me. That was how this woman/shaman came into my life. People had been telling me about her months and I had attempted contact, but kept getting so busy that nothing ever came of it. I spoke to her briefly at a retreat center and later discovered she had run in the same circles as my mother in the late 60s and 70s and had been an activist. A few weeks later she came to an event I helped host and we were able to chat a little more and she had this amazing tranquility about her. I knew that if I was going to trust my soul to anyone it had to be her. So, I finally sent the email and we scheduled something. I chose this time because it is Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year and a new moon and it seemed appropriate.

I arrived to her house on time, but was interrupted by a small crisis at work, which left me on call for about 20 minutes. I was embarrassed and flustered and thought I had screwed it all up, but she just smiled, put a sweet smelling oil on her hands,  touched me and told me to breath. After the crisis had been averted we were able to sit down and talk. We discussed patriarchy, the shifting world, finding spirituality and how when our souls leave they don’t go very far away. My mind kept returning to a talk I attended last night by Dr. Robert Jensen, an academic, mentor and incredibly gifted writer. The topic was his new book Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialog, which is basically about critical thinking and challenging convention. My mind kept returning here because I was scared and filled with doubt about what I was about to do and whether or not it was just down right crazy. Jensen spoke of his own struggle with trying to fit in and how it was when he saw people not only thinking outside the box, but living there too that he felt able to be himself. He also said that critical thinking is not just about coming up with solutions to problems, but also reevaluating definitions and assumptions. I realized that in this moment I was doing both and was able to better take in what she was explaining which was the exact same thing Jensen spoke of. In different language they were both saying that there are no solutions to the big problems unless we can begin to reframe the questions and even then our understanding is limited. Was I disassociating or had my soul been frightened away? How can we sustain human life on this planet? Should we be trying to? What do freedom, democracy and capitalism even mean? What the hell do I know? The last one is the only one I can answer: Nothing. I know nothing.

She instructed me to lay down, put on music that sounded like distant chanting, lit the copal (which is a smell I love) and performed a limpia (cleansing) with sage and an egg. She stroked my hair and began to sing in Spanish and I began to cry, not sob, but tears were shed. It surprised me as I rarely cry in front of others, but I just allowed it to happen. I knew it was coming, but my body jerked in surprise as cold water was spit on my face and torso. There was more singing and she said some things that had been bothering me for some time. Did she say that to everyone or could she sense what was going on inside of me? Was it magical divination or just an ability to read people gained from experience? Is there a difference? She brought out a crystal and something that made noise and said that she was going to play it until my soul parts were ready to return to my body and then she was going to blow them back into my heart and crown. Nothing extraordinary happened when she blew into my head or heart, but I did feel very calm and like a heaviness had been lifted. When I stood up she hugged me and said, “Welcome home.” I thanked her and offered her tobacco and tried to give a donation but she said the tobacco was enough. She advised me to create a sacred place (alter) in my home and put a picture of myself in it to welcome the soul back. We spoke some more before I left and I was surprised at how different everything seemed leaving that place.

On the way home I stopped to purchase a candle and incense and my car battery died. It did not phase me and was resolved very quickly. I came home and set up an alter with candles, sage, a picture of my grandfather, a hamsa (protection), small painting of a famous Mexican herbalist, a photo of myself and cloth flowers. Since then I have cleaned, listened to an educational talk on morphic resonance (collective memory)  (which fit in so well to everything that happened today, but I couldn’t seem to work it in to this piece. More on this later) and have written. I don’t know what comes next, but it feels good to be home. Happy New Year!

One thought on “Emailing Shamans, Critical Thinking, and Retrieving Souls

  1. Thank you for writing this, Ale. I think I have some sense of what transpired, though I ‘speak’ that with a holy sort of fear. I’m emailing a link to a friend who gave me a hamsa that belonged to her before I left Albuquerque. Her mother just recently gave her one. Synchronicities, webs. Love.

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